There is so much going on around me, so many people and places and different customs, signs I can’t read, I go to places only to find out I shouldn’t be there.
Living in Mexico has its challenges but nowadays its funny to hear myself at the bank or grocery store and in perfect Spanish ask for something while the clerk answers in English or asks for assistance.I encourage their willingness.
Some people are afraid to speak Spanish or even try to understand when someone converses with them.
When I need to call a hotel or a Mexican friend I usually find that I am speaking much louder on the telephone.
maybe I think they will understand better. They don’t!
Either way communication is probably the single most problematic issue for those living in a foreign country.
I have friends that have actually lived in Mexico for years and still don’t speak the language, then when they call and get flustered or feel taken advantage of I wonder to myself why don’t they just learn to communicate , then they wouldn’t feel so out of sorts.
The problem I see with communication is that people are afraid to use the right or wrong word.
For many years when I introduced someone, I used the word introducir, which I thought in Spanish meant introduce. Not so. The proper word is present( presentar) the other word actually insinuates, well , lets just say ,don’t use it lol.
I admit I use the same word for many things, this, that, those, they are all one word for me, and I am wrong all the time. But I do a lot of pointing and laughing and everyone seems to understand me,because joy is universal.
Forget the traffic signs , no one reads them or follows them anyway and as far as bill boards, you only have to know the difference between banks and beers and condoms to understand what they are selling.
I think the best remedy for poor communication is laughter. When someone knows your trying, people are usually happy to help.
So throw your frustrations out the window, put-on a smile and try today to communicate with those around you in a new and loving hand waving way.
Express and connect with a joyful eye and people will exchange with a wink of approval everytime.
Guess Hu’s Coming To Dinner!
On the 19th of January 2011, in the wintery cold of Washington of D.C, the who’s HU of the world gathered around eating from precious china, sipping wines from exquisite crystal goblets and dining on world cuisine.
Okay lets try again.
President Hu Jintao of China was seated at a state dinner,eating from vintage and gold filled porcelain dinnerware at the White House drinking rare red wines and wondering what the heck black trumpet mushrooms are all about let alone how to eat them.
Looks like the White house choose a subtle, classic comfort food for tonight’s affair.
Poached Maine Lobster(1st red item),Dry aged Rib Eye(2nd red,good choice) with buttermilk crisp onions,double stuffed potatoes and creamed spinach, yes naturally a comfort food staple for dessert.
Good old fashioned apple (hopefully one more red item)pie with vanilla ice cream.
I googled back to last years visit of President Calderon for the state dinner and found,Sonoran beef smothered in Oaxacan mole or with a roasted pork covered in salsa verde,a jicama vinaigrette salad finally a chocolate cajeta tart.
I would think the Presidents from around the world would like to sample the foods of the visiting country and not eat what they can get at home. But hey, maybe there’s a feeling of making them feel at home.
Fortunately The Obamas have enough red food items on the menu.
no doubt a superb Cabernet in there somewhere.
I guess Hu’s going to like that! Everyone’s going to love it, I am sure.
Just getting the invitation,is going to out weigh the food but I would have liked the Obamas to serve more of a vegetable medley or something green, lets face it Hu’s country could use a lot of green thinking.
If President Hu Jintao came to Mexico I am almost sure we would serve him a fresh fish with every kind of salsa to inspire his taste buds. I agree with the White House chefs that making a visiting dignitary feel at home is meaningful but in this case, I am not sure Hu’s going to enjoy it more?
Sounds like “Lets Chow Down” may be more apropos than Bon Appetite!
Ah, the island life,palm trees swaying in the warm breezes. Gentle waves washing ashore over coral covered reefs. The quiet! Laying under palapa covered huts ,shaded from the sun while thinking of nothing other than the waiters return with our cool drinks.
Stop the press! Not so fast lazy one,open those weary travelers eyes, what about 700 taxis lined up in a procession along the waters edge waiting for one ride from 30 thousand anxious passengers crowded around the nearest Sr. Frogs. Riding down escalators to find hundreds of vendors prepared to make the deal of the day. So what amigo!
Welcome to Cozumel,Mexico my new favorite spot on earth or should I say in the sea?
Its easy to find the bliss here, only minutes in any direction and a few steps into a turquoise colored sea, the quiet under water is compelling. I took my snorkel and headed out around the rocks. I happen to know that all fish hang out around the rocks. Most divers will tell you its because of all the food, but my conversation with a baby squid was other wise.
They hide there,they know we are coming. And that we do! in droves and boats with tanks, fins and all kinds of funny looking equipment.
What a strange site we divers must be.
I remember once on the island of St.John,also in the Caribbean, we took a ride to a national park where the novice snorkelers could read signs planted underwater. We saw large brain coral and read about it while swimming to the next sign. At times it was hard to read with all the flapping fins of fellow snorkelers around us stirring up the sand. But once you venture out away from the crowds, the beauty of the underworld brings about a peacefulness unlike any other.
Cozumel offers that peace to those able to grasp the moment. The manta rays peeking out from under the sand, the stag horn coral and abundance of brightly colored,spotted and odd shaped fish, make for some of the best diving in the world. Yes ,now this is island bliss!
Now for the island Blast!
Whether your sitting with your feet dug in the sand or salsa dancing, your going to have a blast either way.
Its true there are hundreds of taxis and thousands of cruise ship passengers coming down 3 enormous piers. But one hardly notices them as the music and beauty on the island hide this intrusion.
Along with the hundreds of taxis there were also hundreds of poinsettias lining the streets. The main boulevard is so clean and painted a crisp white with built in benches that stretch for miles along the ocean front. The main square is loaded with ornaments and the holiday spirit in Cozumel is found in the islanders themselves rather than in the bottom of a margarita glass.
Wow what a place, what a wonderful adventure to see what paradise actually looks like. Both above and under the water.
Cozumel has everything for everybody.
The tour companies, impressive restaurants, the shops are modern and well appointed. You might think for a moment that you’re walking on Rodeo Blvd or 5th Ave. Every designer on the planet has a presence there and the stores are packed with eager shoppers, buying up the most modern Rolex watches to carved coconut heads.
The restaurants we tried like Kinta, offer distinct European flavors while a few steps away you can feast on yummy tacos in the street. Starbucks and Planet Hollywood,Mayan ruins and rare birds all welcome the island travelers.
What a pleasure to see a place that has everything and what a blast people have when they visit. We sure did.
Now I understand why our Salsa and Salsa Tour at the Hotel Cozumel Resort is going to be the highlight of a visit to Cozumel for anyone arriving in paradise. The food and dancing,the underwater experience,don’t forget about the largest pool on the island.
This is the bliss and blast all in one, the makings of lifelong memories..
Happy Holidays or should I saw Holidaze?
The Dancing Chef
HOLLAND vs SPAIN
In or around 1544, Wikipedia says that a man by the name of Willem Van Orange lived in the Netherlands. A dutch hero. Hence the color Orange and the House of Orange was born. He became the main leader of the Dutch revolution against, you got it, the Spanish.
It set off the 80 yr War which resulted in the formal independence of the United Provinces. The Spanish however continued to persecute the Dutch protestants and Good Old Williem led the revolution until Mr Balthasar Gerard declared him an outlaw and had him assassinated in 1580. Naughty, naughty thing to do!
Now some say that the World Cup soccer match this weekend between The Netherlands and Spain is going to be exciting because Holland hasn’t been in the playoffs since 1978. But guess what people, its really been 430 years. Pretty sure William didn’t have any idea that it would take this long for Holland to stand face to face again with their former masters.
Thats right, soccer matches ultimately have more to do than just dreaming about a date with Mr.Beckham. Although I could stop there and be happy never watching another game. But the truth is it brings out the spirits of the country. I probably wouldn’t be so excited if say,Slovakia was playing Serbia this weekend or Cameroon against Korea. But the fact is that I was born in a rural southern town in Holland. Probaby close by to where William is resting, since Holland is such a small country.
So in the spirit of the Dutch, today I will get my gardeners to start painting my house orange, go out and buy lots of carrots and persimmons and start dusting off all my old wooden shoes. I have one very large wooden shoe which I am going to attach to my car antenna for the next few days. On second thought maybe Ill just attach it to the hood of the car instead of that set of longhorns.
You’re not going to need your vuvuzela Mr.Willem of Orange, we hear you loud and clear!
Its pay back time Spain get ready to rock and watch us rollllllllllllllllllll those goalllllllllllllls!
Right, lets see, if it is unimaginable chances are I wont be able to wrap my mind around it. Why would I want to think about something unattainable, a feeling or thought out of my restricted boundaries, perhaps setting myself up for potential failure or remorse,sadness or grief?
What is unimaginable anyway? Is it that our oceans are dying and filling with oil, global warming that will sooner or later destroy lakes and streams and cover inhabited islands. Is it unimaginable to think that we have lost half of the rain forest in the last 20 years or that in 40 years there wont be any fish left swimming? It is unimaginable to me that people still sleep in gutters by the road side and have no food or families or a hand to the nearest shelter. That floods destroy everything a person has worked for their entire life. That earthquakes can level off the lives of good people minding their own business.
Okay! Then what is equally unimaginable is that a ceramic piggy bank, named Lela, sits with her painted smile and red cross on a chefs table during a cooking tour on a speck of land in the middle of nowhere called Mazatlan, Mexico.
For an unimaginable moment in time, Lela answers prayers for Haitian victims, she re-builds schools in Chile,provides medicine and care, food and shelter for those who have lost everything in West Virginia and Nashville. This little unimaginable piggy sits and waits daily for those who reach deep,to help the less fortunate.
Because she exists help arrives!
A woman stopped me once while I laying food and water next to a sleeping bum. She said,”why bother?” I continued with my service and wondered about that. It would be unimaginable not to help him. We never know where people come from or how they end up the way they do. If we begin to exist like Lela, if we connect rather than disconnect then I am sure about one thing, doing the unimaginable for someone else we can truly begin to let us dream about the unimaginable for ourselves.
Lets take off the armor and gloves and begin to massage love and compassion back into the thread of society. Regardless how little we have, our little is an unimaginable treasure for someone else.
This little piggy went to the market…this little piggy…
This week we entertained hundreds of lively cruise ship passengers. Both Spring Break and Easter allows us to include children and teens along with their parents on the salsa and salsa tour.
We both agree as many parents do that teaching your children how to cook is equal to teaching them to manage money. The result is always a more prosperous, productive and healthy life.
At Salsa and Salsa we want people to walk away from our tour feeling like they can experiment with new foods and not feel intimidated while walking through the grocery store.
Imagine walking down the aisle and your son or daughter asking you if you have enough tomatillos (green tomatoes with husk)or cilantro. Now there is meaning of success. Understanding the foods we eat is essential in this day and age,teaching your children about nutrition should be on the top of your list as a Parent, Grand Parent,Auntie or Uncle.
Many of you have culinary gadgets and things your not sure how to use, what they do, or how to clean in your kitchens but here in our Mexican kitchen and in at least 4000 other kitchens that we know of, the Molcajete is the most valuable cooking utensil.
The molcajete was first used in pre-Hispanic cultures over a 1000 years ago. It was the main cooking utensil used by the Aztecs and Mayans. The first molcajetes were made out of clay and used to grind, spices,salsas, nuts and berries.
Today we keep that tradition alive in our show.
Have a fresh salsa ready and mixed in minutes.
People of all ages love using the molcajete because its fun, okay a bit tedious at times (to many margaritas) but the flavors are terrific. Kids enjoy sitting in the kitchen using the molcajete with you,while they learn about the different ingredients in the food.
I remember once a small boy at our show telling me how he hated guacamole. Strong words for a little one but none the less I am sure he never realized that avocados were the main ingredient. I showed him how to carefully open the avocado and take out the seed. Then we spooned out the meat and began to mush it in the molcajete. He loved the messy mashing part, what kid doesn’t? Then we took a taquito and dipped it in the bowl,just like that…. Mikey liked it! I giggled to myself how we as parents tend to sway our children at times with our opinions about food rather then to let them form their own. Many of you have written to us over the years on how your using your molcajete,below I will end with some of the fun uses we received. (Check out the Holy Guacamole inter-active kids cookbook)
When using your molcajete try and keep the food in the center of the bowl. Press and roll with your little pestle, the clay bat shaped object used to crush the ingredients. Do not stomp in your bowl as the food will splatter on you. The pestle also known as the manita (little hand) can become covered with foods as you begin the grinding process. Just lift the manita and scrape it on the lip of the bowl or use a knife to push the food back to the center of the bowl.
The bowls clean in just seconds with warm soapy water, ready for the next task.
Discover the joy of the molcajete, roast your ingredients before hand and keep them refrigerated. Then during the week get ready,press and you’ve got a salsa in minutes. Molcajetes stay out on the counter in our kitchens for daily use,like blenders, coffee makers or any other cooking utensil.
Other uses include: Facials, add yogurt and avocado for a super facial mask, try a banana and honey mask or papaya and cucumber. They are all great hydrating masks. The strangest one we received was the strawberry toothpaste but now one of my favorites. Put a couple of fresh strawberries in your molcajete and mush, after it turns into a paste ,scoop it up with your toothbrush. Crush walnuts, almonds, pecans in your molcajete and add as topping to ice cream or yogurt.
Molcajetes make great gifts,fill them with small bottles of salsas,little bags of spices or a lime squeezer and your ready for that Cinco De Mayo Celebration!
Also remember to check out the Kids cookbook on sale this summer called Holy Guacamole, its fun inter-active cookbook filled with puzzles,tips,recipes and a Mexican language guide.
This week marks the beginning of Easter week. For us living here it means crowded beaches, lots and lots of families from the US and Mexico, everyone sharing in the spring spirit and of course the glorious weather.
In spring time our lives blossom, friendships bloom in celebration of life. It’s a time to come from within out, a time for gratitude, replenishing our thoughts with new creative ideas.
Spring time is also about color, everywhere the bougainvilleas are bursting in bright reds, oranges and yellows. The magnificent jacarandas, hibiscus flowers are peering out from the winter months, expressing growth in the light of day.
What I love about Mexico is the happiness people have in their lives. Eternal springtime!
The family unit alive and well,grandfathers to little siblings caring for each other.
Mexican people are so rich in spirit and this light exudes from them whether shopping or waiting at a street light or simply walking down the boulevard, people truly enjoy their lives. They live in the moment, relaxing, celebrating,and eating which is a huge part of any festivity.
At Salsa and Salsa we teach people how to open up to new ideas, try new foods and share in the joy of eating together. Like our Mexican hosts, eating should be the most important time of the day. Everyone comes together,sharing thoughts and feelings about school, or work.
Next time you feel like running through a meal or flying past the drive-thru stop for one second the think about how important food really is to our lives.
Like spring time, food colors inspire us to eat healthy.
Think about what your eating, take a moment to fill your mind with gratitude that you have food on your plate or lap or in your hands and remember that spring time is the time of renewal.
Be grateful for everything you think about, ideas you have and people who make you smile.
Have a party, use your molcajete and dream up your own spring salsas! Or just go by our store and flip through our spring time recipes in our Salsas For All Seasons cookbook!
Fill your life with one new color this Easter and share your eternal springtime with others!
What a great life…
But I do think about how to make them smile. Maybe just a little laugh a minuscule jolt of joy. Making people feel good about themselves. We don’t know where all the 93 people are coming from this morning for our Salsa tour, but what we do know is how to show them a good time.
We like to bring attention to someone who may very likely be swept up in a world spinning at such a pace where most people are forgotten, neglected. Where we are left standing miraculously, clutching our computers with hurricane force winds surrounding our everyday duties and lives.
Just like that our lives begin to bloom again.
Breath, your taking time out for yourself! what a concept! remember that person you grew up with, that survivor you became after the divorce, that illness,that hero you were helping strangers. Your the sister or brother, Mom or Dad to your crazy siblings and even crazier in-laws. Need I say more?
These 93 people sitting in front of us,with their chef hats on, wearing aprons ready for action are our heroes!
Travelers passing through teaching us, sharing with us and raising glasses, in the pursuit of happiness…
Salud! Dinero and mucho mucho Amor!
One of the things I like about life, and our Salsa show, is a solid routine. There is something comforting in a routine. Knowing the pace, the time, the payoff. Some people don’t like routines, they want something different everyday, something exciting and challenging. But for me routines are like old friends, you can count on them.
I think what happens, like anything, we take our routines for granted. What was once an exciting ride to the beach can become boring. Some people don’t even see the ocean while driving along the shore. Come on people, start living your lives, quit waiting for all the stars to line up, they wont!
First stop, Starbucks, hello to our friends, maybe a blueberry muffin, maybe a sandwich, today just the coffee.
Next stop the hotel. This is where the routine comes alive. Everything in its place, tequila shot glasses poured, fruit and vegetables cut and sliced and filled, and always a new face, a new waiter. Do we have to train him again?
Ingredients are ready, the drinks are poured and in a few minutes 50-100 people will be waiting in line to join the show.
“Your aprons and chef hats are on your chairs, please put them on when you are seated!”
All routine, all organized – but wait, then something starts to happen…that annoying little thing, like wind or rain, all interrupt our wonderful routine. The timing starts to change, I glance at my watch and realize we might have to move the entire show from outside to inside in 20 minutes. I call the dock to see if we can hold the passengers a few more minutes, then that gripping feeling ravishes my body when they say, “the buses just left!”
I notice rain falling over the ocean in the distance. I stop and look up at the clouds and waiting to see which way the rain is moving……then Holy Guacamole just like that its coming our way. Who would arrive first the passengers or the rain. No time to wonder, lets move inside fast! Wait , we are in Mexico nothing happens fast,Holy Guacamole again, lets just move!…………
I run to find help, anybody, everybody, I pass the hotel owners sitting comfortably having breakfast and with a shrill I ask them for all hands on deck.
The bellboys, the handymen, everybody starts to pick up round tables of 8 , entirely covered with dishes, food and drinks and table after table get moved over to a new enclosed area. Wooden bar chairs are flying out of the bar on one side and plastic table chairs are shuffled in through the other.
Everyone goes into first gear, Okay well, Pamela and I go into first gear, but since we are driving it is okay that everyone else rides alongside………..so much to do, we have to be ready, lets go……….. lets go….
The sound system is dragged in and the final touches are added to each table.
Pamela and I look at each other and realize we have just done the impossible AGAIN!
Last week we took over the lobby of the hotel. It was completely out of routine, our sweet wonderful routine. Hotel guests looked bewildered stepping off the elevator into a lobby of 86 chefs complete with chef hats ,aprons and those fantastic margarita smiles ,all of them shouting “OLE!’.
I wondered what the new arriving hotel guests thought when the taxi pulled up and close to a hundred chefs were all dancing in the lobby. They probably thought is was some kind of swinging place, this hotel. “Nah couldn’t be the welcoming committee.”
Routines are great and anytime we fall out of routine we are tested.
Next time you feel like complaining about your routine, stop and think about how lucky you really are to have a reasonably safe life without to much change in your routines.
Remember routines are responsibilities cousin, and when we can live a responsible life people can count on us. And when people can count on us they can trust us, after all isn’t that what we all want anyway, for people to trust us and depend on us.
What makes my life so great is that from the moment everyone arrives,while I search through my opening dialogue, I kiss my sweet routine for being there with me. I can count on my routine most days. But when routines are lost I realize it a passing adventure I need to stand up to.
So next time your bored or feeling dumpy, think about all the things that are routine in your life. Each one a friend, with a subtle tap on your shoulder that whispers ” hey lucky you” relax, everything is going according to routine.